First I must complain (slightly, in a good-humored way) that this is the second time I have bought a Vienna ballet ticket for a show where Olga Esina was the only lead ballerina listed, and the second time I was disappointed with a casting change seemingly kept secret until performance night. Grrr... But that is a minor gripe, as I enjoyed the show immensely and, when it ended, found myself wishing I could see it again.
Before I go on, I'll mention that in preparation, I watched full-length YouTubes of the Sergeyev and Nureyev versions, plus shorter clips of the Peter Wright choreography (I couldn't find a full version online). I also watched a few interviews with ballerinas who have danced the role. So I didn't have another live version to compare it to, but I had a general understanding of the story and the classic parts of the choreography.
So, here are my impressions:
The lead ballerina was Nina Poláková, a Slovakian "first soloist" making her debut as Aurora that night. (Or possibly her debut in the role in Vienna? It's hard to say, as most of the program was German-only). Of course, I was nervous to see how she'd do. But for the most part, the worries were needless. The performance wasn't perfect, but I thought she did a nice job.
First, I'll list a few little downsides: During the Rose Adagio, she never got her right hand all the way up. In fact, I don't think she got it even halfway up. On the other hand, perhaps it's better to do what she did rather than raise your hand all the way up and then frantically jerk it down. Also, to her credit, she didn't exude nervousness or self-consciousness during this sequence (or if she did, I couldn't tell from the ninth row).
Another slight flaw: a few times when her foot was in passé position, it appeared to me to be slightly over-crossed, which I found distracting, though she was not the only ballerina in the show to do that. And most of the time she had it placed properly.
Lastly -- and this is more of a comment about Poláková and her prince together -- but they did not seem 100% at ease with each other (to my eye). The prince, portrayed by a Ukrainian dancer, Denys Cherevychko, had a lot of good qualities, as did she, but several times it appeared something was off between them. Once her hand appeared to be searching for him and not quite finding him. Another time, he held her wrist in what looked to be a vice-like grip, while her arm trembled a little. They just didn't seem 100% comfortable together.
Separately, I thought they both had good qualities. He struck me as a graceful, powerful jumper. He did, however, seem like he was getting a little tired toward the end of Act III. He slipped slightly coming out of the pirouette of his wedding solo, and his extension during the following coupé jetés was pretty modest. But aside from those picky details, most of what he did seemed very good. And in terms of his acting and on-stage persona, I thought he did well -- he had an air of seriousness, which seemed right for the role.
As for Poláková, I thought her best moments were the solo that follows the Rose Adagio, and her wedding solo. In particular, I remember thinking her piqués en arabesque were quite pretty, and her port de bras throughout the show was beautiful. Additionally, she has an easy, natural stage presence. She came across as someone who is as happy as I think Aurora is supposed to be.
Of the supporting dancers, there was one fairy I liked quite a bit, but unfortunately I cannot tell you who she was because the program didn't indicate the order of the fairies' solos, and I couldn't match the look of each solo to the character, a challenge made more difficult by my inability to translate the names of the fairies or remember all six qualities that they represent.
I thought all of the wedding dances were strong. Since naomikage mentioned Kiyoka Hashimoto, I should report that she portrayed Florine elegantly, with precise, detailed movements. At the end of their last pas de deux, she did a small quick motion with her hands -- a little flourish -- to match a tiny detail in the music, which I thought was a nice touch.
Other highlights of the show were the sumptuous sets and costumes, which I am guessing were the work of Philip Prowse, whom the program credits for "bühne und kostüme." From the moment the curtain went up, I thought "wow!" The initial sets were all dusty red with gold accents, as were the dresses of the ladies of the court (the mimes). These dresses had high, stiff bodices and sleeves fitted to the elbow, where they then fell to the floor in a fabulous lacy cascade. But my favorite dresses were those worn by the court ladies at Aurora's wedding. These were a deep, gleaming gold, with pinkish-peach accents, made all the more dramatic by the enormous bustles. They looked inspired and very expensive. The designer wasn't restricted to glamorous dresses -- other standouts were the costumes worn by Carabosse's henchmen. With oversized black-and-purple jackets, and expressionless, porcelain-like face masks, this look was somewhere between Prince and Tim Burton. With all that great vision, I couldn't help but wonder why Aurora didn't have better dresses, but fortunately, her dancing kept you from thinking too much about it!
I am not a musician, but Tchaikovsky's wonderful score sounded perfect to me as performed by the Staatsoper Orchestra.
So all in all, it was a great show. Now I am hoping to see the Czech National Ballet perform their take on SB next month. They'll be staging a version by Mexican choreographer Javier Torres.